Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Teaching..Thus Far

Since my last post, I have officially started the job for which I was hired - to teach English. Once I actually got the job, this was easily the thing I was most intimidated by. No one I asked seemed to be able to explain the teaching experience in a way that made me feel like I could do it just as easily as they were doing it. I have a friend who is teaching junior high kids and is having a blast. This is also the same person who was a trembling mess while giving a presentation in class. I couldn't fathom it, but seeing this transformation made me feel like ''if he can do it, I can do it.''

The cover slide to my presentation
I was given a whole month (but it took me 2 days) to put together my first lesson - my self introduction. I researched some ideas on the internet and although mine was more informative than entertaining, it got the job done. I first went over some 'key words' that would help them understand the presentation. I would say the word in English and depending on the year of the students, I would either give them the definition in Japanese or ask if anyone knew the Japanese word. I always enjoyed the look of surprise on their faces when I would say a word and translate it into Japanese. (that's right kids, I'll know what you think you're saying behind my back!) I talked about my family, my hobbies, my pet and also about my hometown and state. To make the lesson interactive while checking for listening comprehension, I had a short true/false quiz at the end. That had varied results with it either being way too easy or too hard. Realizing that I had put together a lesson that encompassed new vocabulary, visual stimulation, use of both teaching parties, and checked for retention, I got the feeling that my JTE's were pleased with it. By the end of my first week of teaching though, I hated repeating my self introduction. In total I probably gave that lesson over twenty times. Especially bad was the last day because I had to do it with a sore throat. Ugh. 

Since my self introduction, I've mostly taught brief lessons related to the subject of the day. For example, today the textbook had a lesson about Picasso so the JTE asked if I had ever been to Spain. I have so talked about it for a bit. Afterwards he went around and asked questions about my brief story. It's just some listening comprehension but coming from a native speaker, it helps prepares them for real life situations. So mostly I just wing my lesson on the day and has been working out for me so far. As part of my own learning process, I'm becoming more mindful of using simpler words and big gestures to not lose the kids in translation. I also write out the words on the board since I heard the students know English better on paper than verbally. After I'm done with whatever I'm saying, I erase everything and then go back and ask questions ready to write their answers in the same spot that I had just erased. Having a photographic memory myself, I know that for some kids, this helps them relate what I'm saying to what I'm expecting as the answer. Most of the time they remember which makes me feel like they actually learned it. I'll also make handouts on occasion so that they can keep the lesson for the next time when I refer to something in a previous lesson.

Now, there's no reason for a teacher without students, so they are the end all be all when it comes to lesson planning. I've had all girl and all boy classes, each grade level, and each English level, I think. Because of this, it's hard to cater each lesson to what's going on until you form a routine and have a solid schedule. So far these kids have been noisy, rude, disruptive, disrespectful, uninterested, laughing the whole time, shy, quiet, nervous - Argh! Anything but attentive, actively (not forcibly) participating, and just good. I mostly just smile and try to stay on track. I'm certainly glad though that I'm not expected to administer any disciplinary action. I would bring back the ruler and allow teachers to smack the kids if that were the case. It's hard to explain, but in general I feel that these Japanese high school kids are more sheltered and less mature than their American counterparts. Maybe naive is a better word choice than mature actually. Imagine a class of third graders - they laugh at inappropriate words, act up in class, but you also have the ones that are well behaved and decorating their binders with stickers. Nothing wrong with being naive, but the acting up thing is just not okay when some of them 18 and taller than me. Annoying as that is, I'm also trying to remember the part of it is the fact that to them this is just another subject they have as part of their curriculum. That is to say, they're not especially interested in English or excited about learning it the way I was about learning Japanese. Getting them interested and excited is supposed to be part of my job too, but I didn't realize how taxing it is until I was in a classroom full of bored students. 

To finish, I'm going to try my best to make the lessons fun and interactive, but quite frankly, I'm not clown at a party. I will make sure that the ones who want to learn will get a quality lesson as best as I can provide among the other students. I'm a teacher, not a babysitter, so the other ones can regret it when they want to talk to a hot foreigner in a bar one day. Just as I suspected, teaching won't be my career in the future but for now I'll do my best.

I'll give another teaching update in the near future to show how things are progressing!

For now here is a link to a welcome bulletin about me posted by my visit school posted.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like you're adapting quite nicely Jenny... everything you just explained... I've gone through... and I'm sure I'm not the only one either.

    I always tell new ALTs... give it a month or two and before you know it... lessons and catering to classes will become second nature to you and you'll basically have no issues. The kids will eventually get to know you better by then as well... and hopefully more of their interests will peak.

    Some advice... if possible... try and join the kids during their club activities. That's how I tend to learn their names best... and it's also a time for the students and me to interact in a non-studious setting... so, they can get a feel of who we really are, aside from being that foreigner that is trying to make them learn something they don't care about.

    But, yeah... you seem to be doing a great job with your visual aids and how you go about explaining things while using the board... cause you are absolutely correct... Japanese people tend to be better visual English users... not so much auditory/speaking users... so, good job!

    Continue the good work yo! If you continue the way you're going... I'm sure you'll come up with solutions for most of the negatives you're encountering!